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War Blog By: FrontPage Magazine
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Investor's Business Daily has an editorial in their issue tomorrow which calls for the firing of Eason Jordan, CNN's embattled chief. As the new blog Easongate notes, this appears to show that the momentum continues to build for a day of reckoning for Jordan, rather than the free pass he got after his 2003 admission of selling out to Saddam:

Speaking last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jordan made an arresting charge. He claimed the U.S. military, while pacifying Iraq, had targeted both American and foreign journalists. ...

That's when the bloggers stepped in, including some who were actually there. Then master blogger Hugh Hewitt took up the case. Soon the blogosphere was electric with outrage over Jordan's irresponsible charge. Now there's an easongate.com, tracking the scandal's every fact, every claim, every angle, and demanding CNN come clean.

Why "scandal"? Jordan was spouting outrageous charges with no basis in fact. In journalism, even in High Church Journalism, that is a cardinal sin. Rising to the topmost reaches of media power does not exempt one from the first rules learned in journalism class.

The bloggers, who've done so much recently to correct the elite media's misbehavior — including sending CBS's Dan Rather to newsman's purgatory — now have Eason Jordan as quarry.

Deservedly so. It's time for him to go.

The IBD editorial reaches that conclusion without even discussing Jordan's other unsubstantiated allegations, the torture of journalists by American soldiers or other deliberate assassinations of reporters by the Israeli military. Not too many have yet noted that Jordan's likely successor, Chris Cramer, has made almost as many such allegations as Jordan -- and with those omissions, miss the greater issues of CNN's credibility and the question of what message that CNN spreads in its international editions in order to pander to the anti-American biases of its global audiences. After all, their executives certainly show no compunction against doing exactly that same thing.

I'm happy to see IBD continue the call for Jordan's ouster, however, as the more voices that start weighing in on Eason's Fables, the more difficult it will be for the MSM to continue its blackout. The momentum also puts pressure for CNN to request that the WEF videotape of the forum in which Jordan made these allegations be released for general viewing. The longer they wait, the more certain it is that they know the tape will not exonerate Jordan but convict him instead.

Here are some other cracks tonight in the media blackout:

Scott Sala at Slantpoint notes the discussion at Hannity and Colmes tonight. I could only catch a small part of this discussion, and I came to the same conclusion as Scott: no one on the show had actually researched the issue, including the two hosts.

Larry Kudlow writes a scathing column in National Review, and then has Hugh Hewitt on Kudlow and Cramer to discuss the story; Radioblogger transcribes it.

Glenn Reynolds writes it all up -- again -- at MS-NBC. Too bad the entire network ignored the story yet another day.

The Tennessean picked this up on Sunday and gave it a brief but harsh mention.

Keep an eye on the New York Sun for a follow-up, which may come tomorrow.

New blog links:

Molten Thought fisks Kurtz, and becomes a believer.

Slublog notes an interesting link between Nik Gowing and the Chatham House Rules that the WEF used to refuse the release of the videotape.  Tuesday, February 8, 2005



By Michelle Malkin 

As I noted below, Howard Kurtz reports that Eason Jordan has created a list of "incidents" in Iraq. The purpose and contents of the list are not clear, but it may be surmised that it is a list of journalists killed by U.S. soliders. Apparently the list is designed to bolster the view that our soliders are deliberately targeting journalists. The only name on the list that Kurtz mentions is that of Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana, who was killed by U.S. troops on August 17, 2003.

U.S. military officials say Dana was killed because soldiers mistook his camera for a weapon. But some of Dana's former colleagues don't buy that argument. Examples:

- Salon: "The "unconscionable" death of Mazen Dana: Are journalists being targeted in Middle East war zones? To a colleague of the slain Reuters cameraman, it sure seems that way."

- The Guardian: "US troops 'crazy' in killing of Mazen Dana." Includes a quote from Nael al-Shyoukhi, a Reuters soundman, who said U.S. soldiers "saw us and they knew about our identities and our mission."

-The Independent: "US admits Mazen Dana was shot dead at close range." Quotes Dana's driver, Munzer Abbas, saying, "There were many journalists around. They knew we were journalists. This was not an accident."

-Palestinian Chronicle, "Reuters Cameraman Killed For Filming U.S. Graves: Brother." Quotes Dana's brother saying Dana was deliberately murdered for discovering mass graves of U.S. troops killed in Iraqi resistance attacks.

So why did Jordan invoke Mazen Dana's name? It seems pretty clear he is suggesting, along with Dana's brother and former colleagues, that Dana was deliberately targeted by U.S. troops. In other words, Jordan is now making the exact same argument he says he didn't make at Davos.

Update: Blogger Spartacus wrote about Dana's death here the day after Dana was killed a year and a half ago:

The usual suspects are criticizing US troops for shooting dead Mazen Dana, 43, a Reuters cameraman, on the outskirts of Baghdad Sunday. The problem is (as we saw at the Palestine Hotel, where another Reuters cameraman was fired on by a tank and killed) that a shoulder mounted television camera looks an awful lot like a man-portable anti-tank missile system. If you are a 20 year old soldier, in 125 degree heat, who hasn't had a hot meal in two days or a shower in four, who has slept perhaps 5 hours in the last two days, and you see someone 50 meters away pointing something at you that may be a missile launcher, what would you do? If it is an anti-tank missile, you have a second or two to kill him before he kills you. If its not, then you just made a terrible mistake. It is not an easy choice. And not one the troops take lightly. But the stakes are high: choose wrong and you die.

Still don't buy the argument that a soldier might confuse a shoulder-fired weapon and a shoulder-use camera? Check out the photos here.

Update II: What other journalists does Jordan think were deliberately killed by U.S. soldiers? At least two people know: Jordan and Kurtz. Release the list! (Or is it covered by the Chatham House rule?)  Tuesday, February 8, 2005




In Blog I wrote about CNN's massive effort to rebrand itself as "The Most Trusted Name in News."  Today, thanks to Jordan, it is the most busted name in news, and the rebranding campaign is now worse than a joke --every billboard or commercial on which it appears or is intoned is a reminder of the vast gap between the promise and the delivery. Do the Time Warner folks see the damage this erratic exec with a checkered record has done to their "up from the ashes" campaign?  Jordan is also taking the brands of Davos, Howard Kurtz and the Washington Post down the well with him.  Mickey Kaus isn't anyone's idea of a conservative, and his shredding of the Kurtz column has got to be the subject of some meetings around the Post today.  Even David Gergen is dangerously close to getting sucked in as evidence mounts that this was a general smash and bash of the U.S. military done before an audience of mostly foreigners. (UPDATE: The Boston Globe also has  a story on the controversy.)

Scrappleface launches the ridicule phase of the story

And read the comments as well as the post here.  Tuesday, February 8, 2005



click on cartoon to email a link to it to a friend




Although he wishes he were wrong, Gerard says that Easongate is effectively over. The MSM is stonewalling on the Davos video and there is nothing we poor bloggers can do. Gerard is such a good writer at first he convinced me. Now I am not so sure. Austin, also a fine writer, is calling for the video to be released. And now someone very important in the MSM itself, meaning Brit Hume, is kicking the ball down the field on his Special Report tonight. And, yes, Brit may be our natural ally on this but he is more mainstream than CNN these days, at least in the US, to the tune of many millions of viewers. Also, Hume, in my estimation the best television journalist working, is widely respected. Everyone knows he's smart and he's not a liar, which you can't say for Jordan after his admissions regarding Saddam.

No, this thing ain't over -- and it shouldn't be. As I wrote below, this is no small matter. We are in an asymmetrical war, which we can only lose by giving up. If CNN, at its policy heart, wants us to do that, they are contributing to the defeat of democracy in Iraq and are the conscious/unconscious allies of the fascist forces they persist in callling "insurgents." That's their privilege but they must acknowledge it and take the economic consequences from the American public. And to ever be regarded as an honest man again, Eason Jordan must produce the video.

UPDATE: By the way, the story of CNN in this country at least is pretty pathetic. They are barely staying ahead of that other group of tedious losers at MSNBC. It's also good to see the public is finally getting bored with that zombie Larry King.

FNC GRETA 1,568,000
FNC HUME 1,446,000
FNC SHEP SMITH 1,327,000
CNN ZAHN 550,000

MORE: Of course, Iowahawk... who has the transcripts... has made this all irrelevant. And I just bought a couple of these T-shirtsTuesday, February 8, 2005




Chris Cramer, managing editor of CNN's International news division and a chief lieutenant of Eason Jordan, has made similar allegations about the military targeting journalists as his boss, as outlined here earlier and on Slublog. Alert CQ reader David D remembered Cramer from a famous hostage-rescue case in London in 1980, and pointed the way to other inflammatory comments Cramer made towards the men who rescued the hostages.

On April 11, 1980, six armed Iranians opposed to the rule of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini invaded the Iranian embassy in London, taking everyone inside hostage for a six-day siege. Two of the hostages were BBC reporter Chris Cramer and his partner and soundman, Sim Harris:

The hostages were mainly Iranian embassy staff, but also included a number of tourists and two BBC employees - journalist Chris Cramer and sound recordist Sim Harris - who had stopped by to pick up visas.

Later that day Mr Cramer telexed a shopping list of demands to the police from inside the embassy. ... If their demands were not met the gunmen threatened to execute all the hostages and blow up the embassy.

The British activated the Special Air Service (SAS), their commando unit that had been under the budget knife to that point, in an attempt to free the hostages. For the first five days, the SAS planned but remained on standby while British negotiators tried to get the terrorists to surrender. Unfortunately, on the sixth day, the terrorists lost patience and killed an Iranian hostage, an embassy staffer and supporter of Khomeini. After the terrorists pushed the body out a window, the Brits sent in the SAS, which took the embassy back in 15 minutes, killing all but one of the terrorists and saving all but two of the 21 hostages.

Operation Nimrod, as it was designated, became widely hailed as one of the SAS' most successful operations. The SAS earned a reputation as one of the world's best counter-terrorist units and the British still point to Nimrod with pride to this day. Well, most of the British do. Cramer, who got released after the first day by faking a heart attack (on his own admission) and leaving behind his partner, doesn't think too much of the men who eventually rescued Sim Harris and the other 18 hostages. Here's what Cramer told a seminar of media editors for the Crimes of War Project in 2002 (emphases and break points mine):

I won't roll out the victim syndrome for you at all -- well, maybe I will for two or three minutes. My own humbling experience was 20 years ago last week. Not, of course, as I remember it. It was actually last Wednesday at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Not, of course, that I remember it because it has no affect on me. Tomorrow I fly to London for a reunion, the first in 20 years. And I'll come back to you and let you know how that feels next year, if you like.

My experience was very brief. I was stupid enough to apply for a visa inside the Iranian Embassy in London in April 1980. I was stupid enough to be there when Iraqi terrorists stormed it. I was there for a very, very short time. I was there for precisely 28 hours. Not that I remember it, because I'm a member of your profession. We don't do PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder].

I was fortunate enough to have a slightly troubling stomach condition, having been in Zimbabwe, which manifested itself in a very short space of time. It's a most incredible heart attack. And I do fantastic heart attacks. I do great heart attacks. So convincing with my heart attack that the people there were embarrassed and threw me out.

And I was released after 27 hours into the hands of the Metropolitan Police in London and two days later into a dreadful bunch of terrorists called the SAS, who were probably worse than the terrorists inside the Iranian embassy.

And four and a half days later, Maggie Thatcher, in one of her rare moments of triumph, deployed the SAS in broad daylight to storm the embassy and they rescued all but maybe one or two of the hostages. Two were murdered. The SAS conveniently took out five members of the terrorist group and forgot to take out the sixth. So that was my brief, humbling experience.

So Chris Cramer, president of CNN International and a former hostage of terrorists himself, appears to have gotten a lifetime case of Stockholm Syndrome from the experience. He considers British commandos to be terrorists -- actually, worse than terrorists, because they freed people from the clutches of murderous thugs. Had Cramer not faked a heart attack, of course, he would have owed his life to the SAS, but apparently his sympathies lie with the gunmen who caused him all of his PTSD.

Now the man who considers these British commandos to be worse than terrorists says much the same thing about the American military -- and CNN put him in charge of its international news coverage, including everything we and the world see coming from such places as Iraq and Afghanistan. No wonder Eason Jordan hired him to run CNNi. With his twisted sense of judgment and his sympathetic ear for conspiracy theories, he seems a perfect fit for the CNN chief who likes to make up wild accusations overseas about the American and Israeli military.

These are the people who have given us the news for the past several years on CNN. Now you understand the origins of the bias that you see in their "version" of the news. CNN has a lot of housecleaning to do, and firing Jordan won't be enough to restore their credibility. Chris Cramer has to go.


Contrary to the desperate analyses from Western journalists that have appeared almost daily since the Iraqi elections, the most influential Shi'ite cleric does not want an imposition of Shari'a law. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani instead wants the government to follow parliamentary processes to codify a new direction for the world's newest democracy:

A spokesman for Iraq's most influential Shia cleric has denied reports that the cleric is demanding that Islam be the country's sole source of law.

Hamed Khafaf said Ayatollah Ali Sistani believes Iraq's new constitution should respect what he described as the Islamic cultural identity of Iraqis. ...

In Ayatollah Sistani's view, his spokesman went on to say, it was up to the elected representatives of the people in the new National Assembly to decide the details.

Mr Khafaf said the ayatollah had approved the current wording of Iraq's interim constitution, which states that Islam is a source of legislation and no law contradicting Islamic tenets may be passed.

In order to understand the subtleties of why Sistani does not represent Iranian-style Shi'ite philosophy, which insists on Shari'a law, one has to know of the differences between Qum (Iran) and Najaf (Iraq) instruction. Qum teaches an activist Shi'ite philosophy, what Americans would probably call fundamentalism, in which Islam controls all aspects of life, temporal as well as spiritual. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini represented the apex of Qumian power during the Iranian revolution, as an example, and the hardliners still in charge in Teheran follow the Qum model of Shi'ism.

Sistani, on the other hand, follows the Najaf philosophy of "quietism", a more philosophical and less temporal form of Shi'ism. In fact, one of the reasons that Qumian thought took prominence in Shi'ism was Saddam's oppression of Najaf's Shi'ite mosques and madrassas, suppressing moderate Shi'ism in favor of the radical fundamentalism that pushed Khomeini to power in 1979. The Americans and/or the Brits understood the subtle differences, which is why the Coalition has been so anxious to keep Sistani relatively happy, or at least mollified. Renewing Najaf's quietism also will allow moderate Islam to compete with radical Qumian and Wahhabist philosophies, which will also help battle Islamist terrorism in the mosques where it starts.

Sistani's message makes sense to those who have watched this unfold. Does that mean that Sistani will sit by and let an American-style legal code be enacted in Iraq? No, but it also means that Sistani has no intention of seeing a theocracy arise which might turn in his grasp and result in the continued suppression of Najafian Shi'ism.  Tuesday, February 8, 2005




This afternoon I saw on the news (Al-Arabiyah) that:

"Al-Marji'yah, represented by Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistain demanded Islam to be the only source for legislation in Iraq and that the coming government must not try to separate religion from the State."

I didn't like this worrisome statement for sure but decided to wait for a while and gather more information before I make my comment on it.

Well, at least one Iraqi blogger wasn't that patient and
chose to attack back, something that I don't recommend as it might drive people to say/write some unreasonable things.

For example, our friend "Baghdad Dweller" whom I respect has posted some superficial analysis of this subject and posted some statements that are far from being accurate.

"Toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime and giving the Iraqis the freedom to choose has now set the country on a course to a bloodless Islamic revolution. Already, the effects are being felt. Whereas women under the Ba’ath regime, brutal as it was, enjoyed more freedom than most women in the Middle East, they are now unable to go outdoors without head scarves for fear of being harassed or assaulted."

No offence Dweller, but women do go out without wearing scarves, maybe not as they used to do in the past but they definitely do. One visit to any of Baghdad's universities or crowded market places can clear the confusion. Not to mention that there are 6 female ministers in the current interim government and 25% of the seats in the National Assembly will be occupied by women, now do you see something like that elsewhere in the ME?

And I completely understand that when you're outside Iraq, you will find no other way but to watch and read the-in most cases-biased media outlets to get the information you need and eventually this will lead to the formation of a confused vision.

Anyway, back to the main subject and the alleged statement; I chose to wait until the next news hour and of course until I chill out a little bit after the disturbing news and then I heard this update on the story "Haider Al-Khaffaf, a senior Sistani's aide says that no such statement was released".

And going back to Friday's news, another senior aide of Sistani said from Kuwait that "the future constitution of the country is an issue that is left for the National Assembly to deal with".

Away from false statements and true statements, let's go back to similar situations that took place not far ago; Dweller has given what I consider a very good example, she mentioned last year's resolution 137 issue which was called for by the head of the SCIRI (who's considered a strong candidate for the PM position in the coming government as he's heading the list of the Iraqi United Alliance). But even at that time, when the GC was partially in charge, the role of the people and the other members of the GC was so evident in refuting the resolution in question and thus the Islamists failed to pass the law.

Another important thing I'd like to point out here is that Ayatollah Sistani played the role of a 'safety valve' in Iraq, his wisdom has helped control the anger of the masses in more instances and I don't expect him to ruin what has been built so far and push the country into a civil war.

On the other hand, there are rules and regulations that govern the writing of the constitution and these were agreed on by almost everyone (with a few reservations though) but there is a general agreement on these rules, and anyway, passing any legislation will require the approval of 2 thirds of the assembly's members.

Even though the Alliance list seems to be winning a similar majority of the seats now but the future as I expect is hiding a lot of surprises; will the ten or fifteen parties that stood united through out the electoral process keep the same unity when their different interests and agendas contradict each other?? Will a secular Turcoman member of the Assembly for example help Al-Hakim pass such laws just because they were allies during the elections? From what I see, I think the answer is NO.

Dweller added "Although the Election was people Vs terrorist but a big deal of it was Religion Vs Secularism, religion that used by clerics and Mullah to advance their political cause."

Well, maybe elections were religion Vs secularism, but that would be the perspective of the cleric-like politicians and not the people's. It is true that Mullahs seize power in Iran but that Iranian model cannot take place in Iraq, simply because there's no place for a totalitarian regime in future Iraq and power can not be monopolized by any particular small group.

Bottom line is, the last word will be the people's from now on in Iraq and Iraqis will never accept a one man rule no matter what; They're tired of being controlled and they will never, ever approve a new kind of tyranny under any name.  Sunday, February 6, 2005




Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz is taking an active role in fighting the anti-Israel (and anti-American) bias endemic at Columbia University: Dershowitz Says Faculty Members Work To Encourage Islamic Terrorism.

It’s not often that a professor tells a packed crowd at Columbia University that Edward Said was a political extremist and that faculty members in the school’s Middle East studies department encourage Islamic terrorism.

The professor who made those statements yesterday isn’t from Columbia but from Harvard. Law professor Alan Dershowitz showed up at the intellectual home of Said, a literature professor who was a fierce critic of Israel, to rebuke Columbia’s faculty and administration for tolerating an atmosphere on campus that he said promotes the hatred of Israel.

“This is the most unbalanced university that I have come across when it comes to all sides of the Middle East conflict being presented,” Mr. Dershowitz told hundreds of students and a smattering of Columbia faculty members.

“I have never seen a university with as much faculty silence,” he said.

At a campus already divided by a controversy that has flared for months - one that pits a handful of Jewish students against some professors in the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department - the appearance of Mr. Dershowitz was the latest indication that the most serious crisis of President Lee Bollinger’s tenure is far from over.

Mr. Dershowitz’s speech, which lasted about an hour, drew a few catcalls from some hostile members of the audience, who accused the lawyer of supporting torture. It also prompted frequent outbursts of applause from many in the audience, as he repeatedly expressed contempt for the Columbia scholars in the Middle East studies department who are the subject of an internal campus inquiry.

One of the best-known defense attorneys in the country, Mr. Dershowitz, who is 66, said he would help organize an independent committee to look into the student complaints if the faculty committee appointed by Mr. Bollinger came to a “biased” conclusion. Without mentioning names, Mr. Dershowitz said the external committee would include Nobel Prize winners.

Members of the New York City Council, too, have called for an outside investigation of the student complaints.

Drawing a few laughs, Mr. Dershowitz said the prospects of “peace in Israel itself are greater than they would be on this campus.”

“The kind of hatred that one hears on campuses like Columbia, and let me say especially Columbia, is a barrier to peace,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “They are encouraging the terrorists. They tell the terrorists you will have academic support even if you oppose the peace process.”


New York Magazine has a fascinating piece on the “rage” at CBS News over the National Guard memo story, where insiders feel that the wrong people were punished: CBS News Revolt — The National Guard Fiasco — Dan Rather, Mary Mapes. (Hat tip: zulubaby.)

In the aftermath of that day’s traumatic events, there remains a strong sentiment among many CBS News insiders that the punishments don’t fit the crimes—and that those most responsible have gotten off far too lightly. Much internal anger has been directed at Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS and co-CEO of its parent company, Viacom. It was Moonves, after all, who spared Heyward from being fired and instead removed West, Howard, Murphy, and the story’s producer, Mary Mapes, from their jobs. And now Moonves is personally overseeing the news division’s makeover of its last-place CBS Evening News, which will be without a permanent anchor at 6:30 P.M. on Thursday, March 10, for the first time since CBS News began a nightly fifteen-minute newscast in 1948.

It’s even obvious to those on the other side of the cameras that Dan Rather let his blatant bias against George W. Bush overwhelm his concern for the truth:

Rather knew full well the story’s implications for the presidential election then only two months away. The anchorman’s experience at going after sitting presidents is well known, as is his dogged pursuit of tough assignments. But Rather’s reputation as a Bush hater, true or not, has allowed journalists to wonder whether Rather helped rush the story on the air partly for political reasons. “Elections have consequences,” the anchorman had been heard to mutter around the CBS News hallways last year, an apparent reference to his feelings about the crucial importance of replacing Bush this past November.

One fascinating, largely overlooked paragraph in the commission’s report strongly supports the theory that Rather actively pushed the story through without adequate concern for its factual basis. While Rather told the commission that he warned Heyward of the story’s “radioactive” nature, Heyward denied to the commission that Rather ever said such a thing. Indeed, Heyward—once Rather’s executive producer at the Evening News—told the panel that when he warned Rather, the weekend before the story aired, to make certain the documents were real, Rather replied simply: “Of course.” In a later conversation, Heyward recalled Rather’s saying he did not want to “lose the exclusive.” Heyward recalled getting the impression from Rather that they were trying to beat another news outlet to the “scoop.”

“Should Dan resign for his part in this story? Yes,” says one CBS News executive. “Will he? No. It’s just not his style.” It’s unclear from the commission report who bears the responsibility for the network’s ultimately foolish hang-tough strategy after the story aired, but some CBS News producers and executives increasingly suspect that Rather was one prime force behind it. (Others, such as Gil Schwartz, CBS’s executive vice-president for communications, and Jim Murphy, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News, more sensibly argued for new reporting in the controversy’s immediate wake.) Rather has remained intensely loyal to his disgraced producer Mary Mapes, but those around him feel his loyalties should have been to the truth. “The producer lied,” one longtime Rather producer told me in an unsolicited, not-for-attribution e-mail, angry that other innocent people had been wrongly punished for Mapes’s transgressions. But the commission’s report showed that it was the considerable power of Rather—in addition to Mapes—that helped lead Howard, West, and others to trust the reporting on the National Guard story in ways they now must deeply regret.

The insiders’ view on the investigative commission led by former AP exec Louis Boccardi and former attorney general Dick Thornburgh is also quite revealing, suggesting that it was somewhat less than hard-charging:

The commission itself has also come under attack, largely by supporters of those punished after its findings were released. None of those involved in the CBS panel—retired Associated Press executive Louis Boccardi, former U.S. attorney general Richard Thornburgh, and lawyers from the firm of Kirkpatrick &Lockhart Nicholson Graham—had any direct experience with investigative journalism. The commission’s interviews were conducted on the nineteenth floor of “Black Rock,” the CBS corporate headquarters on West 52nd Street, a short walk from the supersize office of Leslie Moonves. No tape recordings were made. The two commissioners and lawyers scribbled handwritten notes on the proceedings—when they were in the room, that is. At various times, either Boccardi or Thornburgh were said to be absent from interviews with witnesses. It seemed to the panel’s critics an oddly casual approach for a commission with a mandate to investigate unscrupulous journalistic practices.


Mark Steyn keeps hitting them out of the park: I hate to rain on Europe’s parade, but...

Read it all, of course, but this point was particularly striking:

Now I take the point that “democracy” - as in elections - isn’t every thing. In the development of successful nations, the universal franchise is usually the last piece of the puzzle, as it was in Britain. Anyone can hold an election: Mugabe did; so did Charles Taylor, the recently retired Psycho-for-Life of Liberia. The world’s thugocracies have got rather skilled at being just democratic enough to pass muster with Jimmy Carter and the international observers: they kill a ton of people, put it on hold for six weeks and then, when the UN monitors have moved on, pick up their machetes and resume business as usual.

I prefer to speak of “liberty” or, as Bush says, “freedom”, or, as neither of us is quite bold enough to put it, capitalism - free market, property rights, law of contract, etc. That’s why Hong Kong is freer than Liberia, if less “democratic”. If I had six or seven centuries to work on things, I wouldn’t do it this way in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the “war on terror” is more accurately a race against time - to unwreck the Middle East before its toxins wreck South Asia, West Africa, and eventually Europe. The doom-mongers can mock Bush all they want. But they’re spending so much time doing so, they’ve left themselves woefully uninformed on some of the fascinating subtleties of Iraqi and Afghan politics that his Administration turns out to have been rather canny about.  Tuesday, February 8, 2005




Kudos to Australian journalist Paul McGeough, normally a dependable voice of defeatism in Iraq, for writing a story about al-Zubaidi family in Baghdad, whose Down Syndrome child was used by terrorists as a suicide bomber on the election day (although here, more than ever, is the case against the term "suicide bomber" since the 19-year old Amar did not make a conscious decision to kill himself and others):

"Accustomed to living on charity, [the Zubaidis] were not surprised when, 10 days before the election, two men arrived saying they were from the local Sunni mosque and wanted to help Amar. Ms Zubaidi was overjoyed.

" 'They said they would organise a sickness pension from the new government, that they were arranging with the Red Crescent for a block of land on which we might build a house, and they gave me $300 for stock for the shop.

" 'They said that they would take Amar to a special school, and each day they collected him and drove away. They gave him sweets and clothes and cigarettes - he loved them. Sunnis had helped us before, so I didn't think it strange'."
Read and be infuriated.

The article closes with this quote from Amar's mother: "The election was meant to be so exciting. But we've had to give Amar as a present for the new Iraq and we just hope that it will get better as a victory for Amar and all the people."

The sub-editor, however, can't quite help himself (or herself), giving the story this headline: "Grieving family counts the cost of democracy."

How about "Grieving family counts the cost of terrorism" instead? Or "Family pays the highest price for freedom." All similar words and concepts, but there is a crucial difference.  Wednesday, February 9, 2005 




Basayev... traumatized, but says he will do it again

One has to wonder at the nonsense that is reported with a straight face these days by members of the mainstream media. Consider the following from the Times Online, written by a certain Nick Sturdee.

“THE Chechen rebel leader who masterminded the Beslan school siege last autumn plans more such operations, despite his apparent remorse over the deaths of more than 330 people — half of them children — in the North Ossetia attack. In his first interview since that bloodbath, Shamil Basayev says that he is in a state of shock over what happened, but blames the Russians for precipitating the bloody end of the siege.”

So Basayev has “apparent remorse” and is so traumatized by what happened that he is “in a state of shock”, but it is all the Russians fault for how it ended? Let’s consider
how the Beslan massacre progressed:

“Other survivors told how screaming teenage girls were dragged into rooms adjoining the gymnasium where they were being held and raped by their Chechen captors who chillingly made a video film of their appalling exploits. They said children were forced to drink their own urine and eat the petals off the flowers they had brought their teachers after nearly three days without food or water in the stifling hot gym.

… “One of them is a child, just 18 months old, with many knife wounds," …The Chechen terrorists - including two so-called "Black Widows" - had been meticulously planning the hostage-taking for months.High explosives and ammunition had been smuggled into the building during the summer by rebels disguised as workmen. A shocking account of the siege has come from Indira Dzetskelova, the mother of 12-year-old Dzerase who was guarded by two women suicide bombers during the siege. She said: "On the first day they shot a man before my daughter's eyes. They frightened the kids by saying that water in the tap was poisoned. "The famished children had to eat rose petals from bouquets which they specially bought for their teachers to mark the first day of term. Parents who were also captured had to feed their kids with all the window plants. "After they ate all the petals, my daughter said that she started to nibble the rose plants.

"She told me that several 15-year-old girls were raped by terrorists. She heard their terrible cries and screams when those monsters took them away."

…"I saw kids and women falling to the ground. And I saw that vermin's face. I saw his smile as he killed my friends."

…"All the kids were crying, 'Please don't shoot! Please don't kill us'. But the rebels did not listen to us.

"Then I saw an open window and just jumped out. My little sister Lena was left inside there." And sobbing, she added: "I don't know if she's alive. She was only ten."

One girl was so thirsty that when she had the opportunity to run to safety, she ran instead to a water fountain. She was shot in the back as she tried to take a drink.

What brave warriors... at least brave in the face of starving thirsty little girls, and unarmed civilians.

Mind you, Basayev is so traumatized remorseful that he has been in shock, but Nick Sturdee goes on to tell us that Basayev also says: “We are planning more Beslan-type operations in the future because we are forced to do so.”

Hopefully, someone will prevent Mr. Basayev from being further traumatized by another Belsan.  Monday, February 7, 2005




Steve Coll of the Washington Post (hat tip: Little Green Footballs) was at a conference on the future of nuclear terrorism at Los Alamos and asked the 60 weapons scientists in attendance to indicate, by show of hands, who thought a Hiroshima-class attack on the US was less than 5%. About four did. That doesn't tell us about the distribution of the degrees of belief of the rest. But Coll's point is made: the possibility of a nuclear attack on the US can't be dismissed.

Although Coll admits that Al Qaeda itself is much reduced, he argues that the sheer proliferation of knowledge has reached the point where a small band of Islamic professionals, inflamed by the idea of Jihad can plot and carry out an attack on their own.

Today al Qaeda is no longer much of an organization, if it can be called one at all. Its headquarters have been destroyed, its leadership is scattered or dead or in jail. Osama bin Laden remains the chairman of the board, increasingly a Donald Trump-like figure -- highly visible, very talkative, preoccupied by multiple wives, but not very effective at running things day-to-day. ...

[But] Imagine the faculty lounge in the theoretical physics, metallurgy and advanced chemistry departments of an underfunded university in Islamabad or Rabat or Riyadh or Jakarta. The year is 2015. Into the room walk a group of colleagues -- seven or eight talented scientists, some religiously devout, all increasingly angry about events abroad. At night, between sporadic electricity outages, they watch satellite television and chat in cyberspace, absorbing an increasingly radical, even murderous outlook toward the United States. By day, as they sip coffee and smoke furtively in each other's company, these scientists spontaneously form a bond, and from that bond emerges a resolve to act -- by launching a nuclear or biological attack on American soil.

Unlike states, which so far have proved deterrable by the threat of retaliation even when led by madmen, this faculty cell may be utterly indifferent to and beyond the reach of the traditional mechanisms of nuclear deterrence.

It is debateable whether al Qaeda was ever deterrable and the hypothetical Islamic faculty cell would be no different. What the GWOT did was deter the states which may have considered supplying al Qaeda-like organizations with the material for building nuclear weapons with the threat of collective responsibility. Deterrence has always, from its inception, been based on this immoral principle and it isn't necessary to approve to recognize it was the case. For most of the Cold War, opposing nations held each other's civilian populations hostage. Early delivery systems were too inaccurate to target the threatening military assets themselves. With the so-called "counterforce" strategy unavailable, only "countervalue" was available. That meant, in effect, that America was prepared to incinerate every man, woman and child in the Soviet Union in response to a nuclear attack. In most Cold War-game scenarios enemy leaders buried deep in bunkers or circling in command aircraft would be the last to die. Some believed they should not be targeted at all in order to preserve a command structure with which one could negotiate a post-holocaust peace.

To the question 'who might America retaliate against if a shadowy group detonated nukes in Manhattan' the probable answer is 'against everyone who might have stood to gain'. The real strategic effect of the GWOT was been to convince many states that this would indeed happen to them. That the decline in Al Qaeda is possibly due to the implicit threat of collective punishment on the Islamic world is a sad commentary on human nature. But there it is. Yet 'Islamic faculty cell' example of Coll suggests a day when even the threat of collective punishment will not be enough to obviate the WMD threat. With the proliferation of knowledge and the increasing sophistication of commercially available devices a time will eventually come when small groups can build nuclear or biological devices without state assistance. When private and personal WMD attacks become possible deterrence will lose effectiveness entirely.

But the situation will be even more dangerous than Coll suggests. Long before a faculty lounge in Islamabad or Riyadh realizes it can build a bomb alone and secretly, the same thought will have occurred to individuals in Tel Aviv, New Delhi or Palo Alto. Any Islamic group that believes it can attack New York deniably should convince itself that no similar group can nuke Mecca at the height of the pilgrim season. In fact, the whole problem that Coll describes should be generalized. The only thing worse than discovering that New York has been destroyed by persons unknown is to find that Islamabad has been vaporized by a group we've never heard of.

Perhaps in the long view of history it will be President Bush's commitment to "return humans to the moon by 2020 and mount a subsequent human expedition to Mars" that will prove prescient.  Tuesday, February 8, 2005




A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of finally meeting Sophie Masson and her husband, David. Sophie is a prolific author, as well as a regular visitor and even occasional guest blogger at Chrenkoff (too occasional; how about another piece, Sophie?), and over some coffee on a hot Sunday afternoon in Brisbane we got to discussing, among other things, the current condition of Islam. Sophie, like Mrs Chrenkoff, was born in Indonesia, which prompted her to note that Indonesia, even though still one of the most moderate Muslim societies in the world, has over the past twenty or so years become noticeably less easy-going and more conservative a society (something she has written about here).

At which point the concept of the Reformation popped into our conversation. Many observers, particularly since September 11 had irrevocably thrust the question of Islam into the public debate throughout the Western world, have argued that what the Muslim world badly needs is a movement akin to the Protestant Reformation, to bring Islam out of its current "Middle Ages" and help the Islamic society become more like, well, us. But what if, Sophie suggested - in an ironic case of "beware what you wish for" - the Reformation is already taking place throughout the Islamic world - and its name is Bin Ladenism?

The debate about the need for a Muslim Reformation suffers from misunderstanding of how the Christian Reformation came about and how it contributed to shaping of both the modern Christianity and the modern West. When we say that the present-day American, British and Australian societies owe much to their Protestant heritage, and therefore to the Reformation, we tend to forget that the Protestantism we are familiar with today has itself evolved as much as its host societies over the last five centuries. The relationship between religion and other aspects of human activity is not as simple as Max Weber with his "Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" would suggest; Protestantism undoubtedly changed our Anglo-Saxon societies, but our societies in turn changed Protestantism.

When we talk about the "Protestant West" as the embodiment of democratic and liberal traditions as well as the spirit of tolerance and openness, we tend to forget that merely replacing Catholicism with Protestantism in the first half of the sixteenth century was only one element of the transformation from medievality to modernity. Our "end of history" societies are just as much the legatees of the Enlightenment, the scientific and industrial revolution, deestablishment of state churches, rationalism and general secularization - all trends with a complex and often uneasy relationship with religious faith.

Which brings me back to the problem of the Christian Reformation as a blueprint for modernizing Islam of today. Protestantism itself is a term dangerously broad, embracing as it does anything from the High Church Anglicanism, which can be easily oversimplified as Catholicism without the Pope; through the somber established creeds like Lutheranism and Calvinism; all the way to radical sects like Anabaptists or Shakers. Protestantism today also spans the broad spectrum from the Establishment Episcopalianism to evangelical, charismatic, "new-born" congregations. The common denominator of the original Reformation push was the desire to take the faith from the hands of what was perceived to be a corrupt, rigid, ossified, worldly establishment and return it to the people - in a form purified, simplified and stripped of heretical or at least questionable overgrowths. Where the various sects and denominations differed was the intensity of that desire and the lengths they were prepared to shake their earthly societies in order to achieve their heavenly ends.

Historical analogies tend to imperfect because times and circumstances change - for one, there is no such thing as the "Muslim Church" akin to the medieval Catholic superstructure - but arguably the movement that Bin Laden represents has similar aims to Christian reformers of the sixteenth century: in his case, to cleanse the faith that has been corrupted by the embrace of the modern Muslim state, and to restore Islam to its earlier, pre-modern, austere, unworldly form. That's why Al Qaeda targets the "corrupt" and "heretical" Muslim regimes as much as the decadent, infidel West. That's why the first adjective that often comes to mind to describe the Wahabbis is "Puritanical."

The Reformation is not - or at least not always - a peaceful and orderly process. As I said before, all too often we forget when looking at our present-day societies that it took us half a millennium to get here. And along the way we had to go through the wars of religion which for century and a half tore Europe apart, the madness of witch-hunts and persecutions, and tremendous political and social upheavals and dislocations. Sometimes, the Protestantism took relatively mild forms (for example Anglicanism in England), but just as easily some of the earlier Protestant communities - such as Calvin's Geneva, the Puritans' Commonwealth, or several of the early American colonies - were very far removed from the open, tolerant and liberal Protestant societies we cherish today.

To point this out is not to engage in Protestant-bashing, or to try to refight the Protestant-Catholic wars, but merely to remind that, just like everything else, Protestantism has evolved over the centuries of interaction with material forces and other ideologies and creeds. I welcome a vigorous discussion and debate of the above ideas, but please remember that everything I wrote is in the spirit of good-will towards both Protestantism and Islam. I'm certainly not arguing the favorite left-wing canard that "Islamic fundamentalists = Christian fundamentalists" or that Bin Laden is a spiritual heir to Luther. I'm merely trying to point out that there is nothing clear-cut about the reformist impulse and that the reform itself is not always a peaceful and orderly process.

Thus, the Muslim Reformation can just as easily result - at least in short to medium term - in more violence, more radicalism, more anti-American and anti-Western sentiment (a point made by
Reuel Marc Gerecht in his recent discussion of the prospects of Muslim democracy). What Islam really needs to in order to modernize is an Enlightenment, which would bring the separation of the church and state, democratization, liberalization and the acceptance of principles and practices of tolerance, openness, innovation and progress. Yes, in many ways the Enlightenment was a child of the Reformation, but the Western world had to go through two centuries of conflict and upheaval to get there. Today, we don't have that much time to wait until the Muslim world truly embraces modernity. We can only hope that just as everything in our world today seems to move faster, so will the political, social and religious trends.

In this context, Iran might ironically be our greatest hope and a harbinger of things to come. Iranian society had undergone its very own Reformation experience as a result of the Khomeininst revolution of 1979. Today, following the experiences of the past quarter of a century, Iran is, at the grass-roots level, arguably the most pro-American and pro-Western society in the region, and one most ready to embrace the future.

Many might wish for a Muslim Reformation. Whether or not that's a good thing, we might still get it. The good news is that we might not have to wait too long afterwards (although these intermediate years might be very bloody and tumultuous indeed) for the true reform within the Muslim world.  Wednesday, February 9, 2005


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